From Solo to #SquadGoals: Geckos Adventures Review

Thinking about taking a group tour? Check out my Geckos Adventures review and book your budget group tour today! | http://passportandplates.com

Disclosure: Geckos Adventures hosted my Discover Bangkok to Singapore trip. As always, all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. 

This past September, I took my first group trip ever. I’ve been traveling on and off since I was fourteen, but somehow I’d never gone on a group tour. I’ve pretty much experienced the gamut of travel partners, although now I (mostly) travel solo.

When Geckos Adventures invited me on their Discover Bangkok to Singapore trip, I admit that I was a teeny bit nervous. I can be a little Type A when it comes to planning a trip, and I was worried that I’d be shuffled in a giant group from place to place, following a guide carrying some sort of flag or stuffed animal on a stick. You all know what I’m talking about :p.

Luckily, this was not the case. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The “Gecko Squad” as we called ourselves formed such a tight-knit group that we half-jokingly promised to get matching Geckos tattoos. Not me, though because I don’t do needles or voluntary pain, thank you very much. But I digress.

Although I’m still an independent solo traveler at heart, I will definitely be signing up for more Geckos Adventures tours in the future. Keep reading to learn who would be a good fit for Geckos (and who wouldn’t be) as well as all the things I loved (and didn’t) on my tour.

 

Why Geckos Adventures?

For those of you who are loyal followers of this blog (or just know me personally), you know that I don’t drink. I’m always down for a fun night out, but my idea of a good time is not partying my way through every country I visit. Luckily for me, Geckos Adventures has the same travel philosophy. They may be a travel company for 18 to 29-year-olds, but they’re for the travelers who “don’t want to spend their whole trip crammed into a bus with 40 hungover backpackers.” Win!

Geckos prides itself on slow(ish) travel, connecting with locals, eating local food and being led by local guides. See below for just a few reasons I love Geckos Adventures.

 

1. Small Groups

Thinking about taking a group tour? Check out my Geckos Adventures review and book your budget group tour today! | http://passportandplates.com

Don’t mess with my clique.

Want to know a secret? I’m actually a shy introvert. Surprise! Don’t get me wrong – I love hanging out with people (especially one to one) and will talk your ear off if you give me the chance. But with a big group of people I don’t know? Forget about it. Fortunately, it didn’t take our group of nine long to become good friends. The maximum group size for Geckos Adventures trips is 16 (22 in Africa), so you’re guaranteed to make a bunch of BFFs. Geckos tattoos are optional.

 

2. Local Guides

Since I’m a noob when it comes to group tours, I didn’t realize that most tour companies don’t use local guides. Most companies hire one guide to take you on all of your adventures, and that guide is rarely a local. While we did have one main tour guide who made sure we didn’t get stuck at a border somewhere (shoutout to Alif!), we also had local guides in every city we went to. Not only does Geckos Adventures do its part in supporting the local economy this way, but this also means that we, as travelers, learn about each place from a local who lives there. There’s no better way to learn about hidden gems and cool experiences!

 

3. Responsible Tourism

Thinking about taking a group tour? Check out my Geckos Adventures review and book your budget group tour today! | http://passportandplates.com

One way to reduce your carbon footprint – hire a trishaw in Melaka!

So, what is responsible tourism, anyway? To me, it means making a difference while traveling – whether it be supporting and respecting the local economy, reducing my carbon footprint, or boycotting cruel tourism practices. Side note: I rode an elephant once back in the day before knowing it’s terrible for their well-being. NEVER AGAIN. Anyway, Geckos Adventures has an entire section about responsible travel, including things NOT to do like volunteer in orphanages, give money to beggars or *ahem* ride elephants. If you’d like to hear my rant on why I’m anti-voluntourism, feel free to contact me. Be careful what you wish for…I do write for a living, after all.

 

4. Unique Experiences

Thinking about taking a group tour? Check out my Geckos Adventures review and book your budget group tour today! | http://passportandplates.com

Spent a couple of glorious days here!

I remember the first time I saw a photo of an overwater bungalow: a wooden hut against a backdrop of crystal clear water in the Maldives. Since then, the Maldives has been on my bucket list. Little did I know, there are overwater bungalows at Khao Sok National Park in Thailand! I was beyond excited to see that our group would be staying in one during the trip. I’ve visited Thailand before and never knew about them. It’s not like they’re on booking.com ;). I would have never known how to book one (let alone, charter a boat to get me to one) despite my self-proclaimed resourcefulness. This is just one example of cool experiences that you can only get when you have a local leading the way.

 

5. Flexibility

Thinking about taking a group tour? Check out my Geckos Adventures review and book your budget group tour today! | http://passportandplates.com

Ended up in a private cooking class, heyyy!

You know how I mentioned above that I’m an independent (read: I do what I want) solo traveler? Well, here’s another awesome thing about Geckos. You get free time. A lot of it. On most days, we’d have about half a day’s worth of planned activities and a free afternoon with plenty of optional activities. There were even a couple of free days thrown in, too. Since I couldn’t get away with not working for two whole weeks (#DigitalNomadLife), I did end up at a café a couple of times while the Gecko Squad went out and did their thang. There was another time when I took a solo cooking class and had a beach day instead of going on a day cruise with the group. While our group stuck together for the most part, I never felt pressured to do what the group was doing, which made my trip that much more enjoyable. I need me time!

 

6. Budget Travel

Thinking about taking a group tour? Check out my Geckos Adventures review and book your budget group tour today! | http://passportandplates.com

My wallet looks like this but with smaller bills :p

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably reading this with a skeptical “yes this all sounds awesome but how much is it going to cost me?” As someone who frequently plans her own itineraries from A to Z, I can tell you that the tour prices are incredibly budget-friendly. I’ve compared trips across several competitor websites and the Geckos tours are very reasonably priced. Not only can you avoid the headache of travel logistics, but you also know you’re guaranteed an awesome adventure. Tip: check out the last-minute sales section to save even more money on your tour.

 

7. Solo(ish) Travel

Thinking about taking a group tour? Check out my Geckos Adventures review and book your budget group tour today! | http://passportandplates.com

Instant friends!

I went on my first solo trip in the summer of 2015. My primary concern wasn’t my safety or my accommodation – it was how I was going to make friends. Well, that and eating alone, but that might just be me. Anyway, my point is that many people don’t take trips because they don’t have anyone to go with them and they’re scared to travel solo. Going on a group tour is the best way to remedy this. Not only are you guaranteed to meet some travel besties, but you also avoid paying a single supplement (unless of course, you want your own room – that’s an option you can do, too). Half of our group was comprised of solo travelers, so “I don’t have a travel buddy” isn’t a real excuse not to travel.

 

Why Not Geckos Adventures?

Just because this was a sponsored trip doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep it real. Travel isn’t all butterflies and rainbows, although I’m pretty sure it’s the closest thing to it. I totally get why group tours aren’t for everyone, at least not all the time. There were a few of things about my trip that I didn’t love.

 

1. Not so slow travel

Thinking about taking a group tour? Check out my Geckos Adventures review and book your budget group tour today! | http://passportandplates.com

Taking the overnight train from Bangkok

Let me preface this by saying that I am fully aware that I can only complain about this because of my current lifestyle. Back when I worked at an office, I would try to squeeze in as many cities as I could on my vacations with the mentality of “I don’t know when I’m coming back here” and “my time is limited and I have to see ALL THE PLACES.” Fortunately, thanks to the fact that I work remotely, I no longer have to travel that way…so I don’t. Geckos is tailored to 18-to-29-year-olds, most of whom are limited in the amount of vacation time they can get. We visited eight cities over the span of two weeks. Most were small towns, yes, but the pace of travel was a little too fast for my liking.

 

2. Transportation time

In retrospect, this is actually directly due to my first point. Because we visited lots of different places, we naturally spent a lot of time on buses. Fortunately, most of the buses were private. Unfortunately, I felt like a fair amount of time was spent on the bus. I’ve looked at other trip itineraries and transportation method and time seem to vary a lot, but this is something I’ll consider carefully for my next trip. Side note: I really enjoyed the overnight train from Bangkok to Surathani and the fact that we used long tail boats to get to the overwater bungalows.

Lastly, if you’re someone who changes your travel itinerary frequently, then (all) group tours are not right for you. I can count the number of times I’ve spontaneously decided to make serious changes to a trip on one hand. So for me, having a schedule where I knew which place I’d be in on which day is actually how I normally travel. However, I’m adding this point in here because I know that many long-term travelers and backpackers do indeed travel spontaneously, booking whichever location strikes their fancy at a moment’s notice. Obviously, this is something that you can’t do on a group tour.

 

Overall, I had an amazing time on my Geckos Adventures tour and would definitely go on another one. After all the trips I’ve taken this year, it was so nice to be able to sit back, relax and let someone else take care of all the logistics for me. Stay tuned for the upcoming post on the highlights from my trip!

P.S. To all my American friends: I know how sucky it is to only be able to get two weeks off max. Been there, done that. Don’t worry though, Geckos Adventures has 30+ excursions that are 10 days or under. Just hit the search button and filter by duration.

 

>> Book the Discover Bangkok to Singapore trip HERE.

>> Check out all the Geckos Adventures trips HERE.

>> Join a last-minute discounted Geckos trip HERE.

 

NOTE: If you’re over 29 and still want to go on epic adventures, be sure to check out Geckos Adventures’ sister brand, Intrepid Travel.

 

Tell me: have you ever been on a group tour? What was your favorite part? Share in the comments below!

 

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  • Great list of pros and cons! Love that you did this despite the post being sponsored. Travel being responsible/ sustainable and experiences being unique are really important factors. I did a 12 day group tour around Europe in my early 30’s and it was FAST, time on the bus between cities was not something I’d really considered and I found the peer pressure to drink and party every night hard to deal with. These days I tend to make my own plans with friends or travel solo but Geckos Adventures/ Intrepid Travel sound like a great alternative solution!

    • Thank you! And yes, I definitely want to showcase the positives and negatives of travel, whether or not the trip is sponsored!
      And I’m with you! I’m not big on super fast travel and drinking and partying are SO not my jam. I like that Geckos pushes more culture than drinking (not that it was a dry trip or anything but partying wasn’t the primary focus). It made me enjoy the trip so much more And yes, i highly recommend checking out intrepid. They have similar brand values and a hugeeee variety of tours!

  • Hendrik Hünecke

    Great tips and very well written! The photos show you guys had a lot of fun, thats how travelling should be 🙂
    We are so far doing our “Couple travelling”, but who knows – at least we are now starting to think about this kind of travelling as well, Cheers from Hendrik & Birdie

    • Thanks so much! I had an amazing time on the trip.
      Yeah, I went from solo to a group but it was really nice to mix it up and meet new people. I’d definitely do this kind of group tour again :).

  • Great and honest review. I appreciate that!

  • Nice review! I was disappointed to find out it was only for people up to 29 until you mentioned the sister brand. Thanks for sharing this, very useful!

    • Thank you! And yes Intrepid has similar brand values as Geckos with a ton more trip options. I’ve heard great things about them so I highly recommend you check them out 😉

  • Karla Ramos

    Ohhhh my you built it up to be so much fun then I read until 29. I just missed that, literally. I will go on check intrepid travel then.

    • Ah I know the age cutoff is kind of a downer (although i do understand that sometimes young’uns want to travel with young’uns). I don’t mind either way. Intrepid has a huge variety of trips as well and they have similar brand values as Geckos – def worth checking out!

  • This trip just sounds so awesome. Next time I am heading to Singapore, ill book myself up for one of these. And I still got a year before I turn 29. Yipee 🙂

    • Yesss better get on it! But yeah they have so many great trips in all regions of the world – definitely worth checking out 🙂

  • We just did our first group tour with Gecko’s older brother Peregrine and have to admit we loved it. Good blend of activity, free time and some fun methods of transport.

    • That’s awesome! I think all three companies do an excellent job of providing fun, quality trips for different budgets and age groups. Glad to hear you had a godo time!

  • Hi Sally,

    Ahhh…that small, tight-knit group would work for me too. I spot cattle call collections around the globe LOL and wondered why they brought their country with them, these tour groups? 😉 Better to keep it intimate and small so you enjoy the experience. As you did. Cool share!

    Ryan

    • Hahah I’m with you! Those giant groups are what initially scared me off from group tours in the first place. I LOVE that these groups are capped and you can still get to know each person individually. I highly recommend Geckos (or Intrepid if you’re over 29) to get the small group experience 🙂

  • I have never toured with travel groups, but this seems different and worth doing.
    Saving up the info for next travel.

    • This was my first time too and I loved it! I was a bit skeptical because I travel solo so often but I would definitely book with Geckos again. Definitely worth checking out 🙂

  • Oh my gosh this sounds perfect for me. I’ve done a few group tours this last year simply out of convenience, and while they made life easier, the bigger ones could definitely feel overwhelming. I’ve never felt more alone on a solo trip than I did when on my massive Mekong Delta tour in Ho Chi Minh!

    And I’m with ya. I don’t drink simply because it makes me sick and a I never get that buzz. Nor do I like the taste. I like having fun at night, but when I’m traveling I’d rather stick to the day time activities and save my energy at night. Gecko sounds like a dream!

    • I can only imagine! i’ve never done a big group tour because i get so overwhelmed when there are tons and tons of people! Sounds like we have similar travel styles, in which case you should DEFINITELY check out Geckos! Our group bonded so much and we all felt totally comfortable with each other which made the trip that much more fun!

  • Shem Hooda

    They sound like such a perfect travel company for me! I love immersing myself in a country’s culture and discovering locals-only spots during my travels! Although I enjoy having a glass of wine or a cocktail on occasion, I generally abstain from over-indulging in it during my travels because I just don’t really care much for the party scene of a city. The culture and food is so much more appealing to me!

    • Based on what you’re saying, you would love it! This was by no means a “dry” trip but people definitely weren’t solely focused on drinking and partying which was nice. There was a healthy combination of going out and enjoying cultural activities. And yes, I’m all about the food and culture too! 🙂

  • Paige Brown

    This sounds like a great tour company. My first few trips to Europe (high school + early college) were on tours, but once I started going solo it would be hard for me to go back because of the two reasons that you listed as your cons. However, like you said, if we were limited to short vacations we would pack a lot in. I’m a backpacker who also doesn’t party. I don’t mind drinking, but I don’t want to have a hangover so I stick to one cocktail or two beers.

    • Yeah I thought it would be difficult to go on group tours but it was a nice change from my usual travel style! I will probably still travel solo the majority of the time but I’d be down to sprinkle in a few group tours here and there! I do understand your points though – sometimes you just need the freedom to do your own thing without any restrictions whatsoever!

  • I’m the same in that I’m not really a group traveller preferring to be able to do my own thing and change things up. This does sound fun though although sadly I am too old lol!

    • Haha luckily they have a sister brand called Intrepid Travel that is quite similar! But yes I’m definitely a solo traveler at heart but enjoy changing it up every once in awhile 🙂

  • Practical Wanderlust

    This is so interesting! I never considered a group tour before, but I like the idea of not having to THINK or PLAN for once. I’m also an introvert who needs alone time, so that’s really nice to hear that they allow you plenty of it! I’ll definitely be looking into this.

    • Exactly!! I usually travel solo but this was so nice and relaxing in the sense that I didnt have to worry about a single aspect of planning. It’s a really good mix of planned activities and free time, which I liked. You should definitely check it out!

  • Christina Pfeiffer

    Eight cities in two weeks is a bit of a whirlwind trip! It’s good to know that Geckos offers unique experiences and is environmentally conscious. I’m sure you made some good friends too on this trip.

    • Yes it was a bit fast-paced but I understand that these trips are catered toward people who have limited time to travel! It was nice to make friends on the trip though, and I love the environmental and local contribution Geckos makes as well. 🙂

  • Brianna

    I’ve never heard of Geckos Adventures before. It sounds like a great company with some good business philosophies! Are flights included in their tour prices?

    • It is awesome and I’m traveling again with them next year too :). I had such a good time. Flights are not included in the price but they can help you with all aspects of booking including flights, transport, travel insurance, etc. which is really nice! Let me know if you have any questions!